- Associated Press - Thursday, April 6, 2017

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - The Maryland General Assembly on Thursday overrode Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of a bill that creates a blueprint for identifying and assisting struggling schools.

Both votes in the Democrat-led chambers were mostly on party lines: 32-15 in the Senate and 90-50 in the House.

Under the bill, academic performance would comprise 65 percent of a formula to identify struggling schools, with a variety of other indicators also playing a role in evaluating performance.

Supporters say the plan takes a creative approach to provide a big-picture view of how schools succeed, including attendance, safety, and teacher quality. They praise the measure for protecting public schools from privatization. Lawmakers who support the bill also contend the Republican governor’s opposition is a reflection of policies supported by President Donald Trump’s Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos.

“One of the things that this bill actually doesn’t do is: it doesn’t let a corporate board who could have been, you know, a contestant on ‘The Apprentice,’ come in and take over and privatize our local schools,” Sen. Craig Zucker, a Montgomery County Democrat who sponsored the bill in the Senate, said, citing the television show Trump used to host.

Hogan and other Republicans who oppose the bill say it’s too lax on academic performance standards, caves in to special interests and makes it difficult for the state to fix struggling schools.

“I’m sad for the kids they are trapping in failing schools, and concerned about losing our federal education funding,” Hogan wrote on his Facebook page Thursday. “This will long be remembered as a low point in Maryland’s legislative history.”

Del. Anne Kaiser, a Montgomery County Democrat, said concerns about losing federal money were mischaracterized, because the U.S. Education Department will review plans and provide states with a chance to change parts that aren’t acceptable.

“There is no loss of federal funds here and saying it is a complete untruth,” Kaiser said.

Republicans said Democrats were politicizing education in another swipe at the Republican president, who only received 34 percent of the vote in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1.

“A significant portion of this session has been spent battling Washington, D.C., battling Trump, battling those big political windmills that I know sometimes we have to take a look at, but this bill goes too far,” said Nic Kipke, an Anne Arundel Republican who is the House minority leader. “I believe this bill hurts our school children, and it will be our school children who become collateral damage in the war on Washington, D.C.”

The Maryland State Board of Education unanimously opposes the bill.

The measure is the General Assembly’s response to the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, which was approved in 2015. It allows states to decide how to use a mix of test scores, academic growth and other factors, such as chronic absenteeism, to identify failing schools.

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